As I write this, my husband is on his way to the airport to pick up a very special visitor - an 8 year old Haitian earthquake survivor named Jodeleine. Not only did Jodeleine lose her pregnant mother and sister in the disaster, but part of her leg as well. Thanks to the work of some very special people, and donations on the part of American Airlines and Children's Hospital in Connecticut, Jodeleine is arriving on a medical visa to receive treatment that will hopefully allow her to wear a prosthesis, and thus be able to walk again.
My heart bleeds to think of what it would be like to lose my mother and sister ever, much less as a 6 year old child. Even worse, it hurts to imagine one of my daughters left behind without me or her sisters. As a mom, I've felt compelled to help in at least one very small piece of Jodeleine's journey.... which is why my husband stands at Logan tonight meeting a late night flight from Haiti with flowers, a teddy bear, homemade cards and my strict instructions to make her feel like a princess when she exits the plane.
Jodeleine will stay with us overnight before heading on to receive her medical treatment. I thought long and hard about how to prepare my three little girls for her stay. I sat them down last night with an atlas, identified Haiti and defined what is an earthquake, amputation, and so on. I left out some significant details, like the loss of her mother and sister, because I do want to protect some part of their 1st grade innocence, and would prefer for it to not occur to them that losing me or a sister is even in the realm of what's possible (because in a just world, it shouldn't be, right?).
When my girls expressed nervousness about Jodeleine's visit (in particular that she doesn't speak English and has an amputated leg, and other details like would she be allergic to the cupcakes we made to decorate with her), I stressed that she's just a kid, just like they are kids. English speaking or not, black skin or white, fully functioning legs or not, they're all just young girls with hopefully a common language of teddy bears, crafts, sparkly clothes, toys, and the fun we've tried to prepare for her.
One of my twins drew this card to welcome her at the airport:
My Ellie, whose drawings are usually quite literal, has the blondest hair, bluest eyes and palest Irish skin (think translucent) you could possibly imagine. I saw it as some kind of fascinating unspoken form of solidarity that she drew herself as black alongside Jodeleine in her welcome card.
Special thanks to my friends who contributed thoughtful gifts and "New England" clothes for Jodeleine!
I'll leave you with these hopeful images, from the Haiti Poster Project to benefit Doctors Without Borders... Help contribute by buying yours here...